How to write a Law Essay
The complete guide to writing a 2:1 standard university essay
The writing of law essays is challenging and can be tricky as it is different from the writing of other types of essays. In order to have a good piece of legal writing, the writer should obviously have a legal background and have the ability to demonstrate legal analysis. At the same time, the writer should ensure that he is clear, coherent, concise, and answers the question using plain English.
The starting point in writing a law is essay is to analyse the question and understand clearly what the question is all about. Ideally, one should start by identifying the area or topic of law. Once the topic is identified, the writer should analyse the question in light of the area of the law and understand what is it that should be discussed in the body of the essay so as to answer the question. In order to ensure that he is relevant throughout, the writer may want to draw up a quick plan consisting of bullet points of the different elements of his answer which he will elaborate on throughout the essay. The idea of having a plan is for the writer to mind map his thoughts. With the plan in mind, he could set off writing the essay, which normally would consist of an introduction, the body, and a conclusion.
The introduction to the essay is very important as it is meant to provide the reader of the essay with a taste of the writer’s answer. In his introduction, it will be helpful for the writer to give the reader a flavour of what his answer will be like. Hence, the writing of the introduction should be more generalised rather than being specific. The aim is to show the reader that the writer has correctly identified the question, the area of the law, and how he proposes to provide an answer. An introduction should not be too lengthy.
The body of the essay will be the heart of the essay. The writer should ensure that the body deals with all the elements that will answer the question. He should write in an orderly fashion so that the reader can understand the flow in the arguments. If the writer’s body will consist of a number of points in law, it will be a good strategy that he writes a paragraph on each point in law. This will enable the reader to follow the arguments and the essay will look neater. The writer may also divide the body of his essay in different sub-headings if necessary.
The writer should bear in mind that the body of his essay adequately deals with all the elements of the answer. The writer should back up all of his arguments in the essay with a proposition of law where applicable. For instance, if the writer is making a point relying on a piece of legislation, he should refer to the Act of Parliament in issue. As an example, if the point that the writer is making is that goods sold should be of satisfactory quality when sold in the course of business, he should refer to Section 14(2) Sale of Goods Act 1979. On the other hand, if the writer is relying on a judgment or the ratio of a case, he should refer to the case with full citation. If the facts of the case law are important in making his point, the writer may even briefly write about the facts of the case. But he should bear in mind that the ratio of the case, that is the legal reasoning behind the judgment, and the judgments provided by the judges are the most important.
It is fundamental for the writer to be consistent throughout the essay and to be relevant at all times. The different paragraphs making up his body should precisely answer the question. The essay should also be grammatically correct. As regards a law essay, it is extremely important for the writer to use correct vocabulary and make use of plain English which is not informal. This means that the writer should not be informal or use words which are more used in Spoken English such as “don’t or can’t”. The writer should adopt a legal analysis throughout which means that the different points that he is making is being made having due regard to the law as a matter of fact. He should avoid giving his personal opinions as to the law. Of course, on certain points of law, he may cite the names of well-known academics such as Benjamin on Sale of Goods; Chitty on Contract; or Todd on International Trade Law and briefly give the views of those academics.
In order for his essay to amount to a good piece of work, the writer should, above all, ensure that his legal analysis is correct and that he got the law right. Before one embarks on writing, he should either be familiar to the area of the law or he must research the area or topic adequately. The essay will only obtain good marks if the substance of the academic writing is legally correct.
The writer should never plagiarise or else he may be heavily penalised. Afterall, law tutors and academics correcting a paper are well acquainted and familiar to academic books and may easily detect plagiarism. Where the writer is referring to a quotation or to the works of an academic, he should give full reference to the source of the reference in a footnote.
Finally, the last section of a law essay should be a conclusion. If the introduction and the body of the essay are correct with the requisite legal analysis and having answered the question, a proper conclusion may only be the “cherry on the cake”. As such, in a conclusion, the author would wrap up the points that he has made in the body and put a generalised answer to the question. It is worth noting that the writer should not introduce any new information in a conclusion but it should rather be a summarising and a re-packaging exercise.
Bearing the above points in mind, the writer of a law essay may embark on an exercise where he may efficiently provide his legal analysis to the substance of the question. In doing so, his aim will be to illuminate the reader on the subject matter and be informative whilst at the same time being relevant.